The HSE's Covid-19 testing centres will close permanently from Thursday despite a recent uptick in infections and hospital admissions.
Eileen Whelan, the national lead of the HSE’s Covid-19 test, trace and vaccination programme, said that even though testing centres will close, people should continue to observe respiratory etiquette and if experiencing symptoms should stay at home.
Ms Whelan told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that from Thursday morning PCR testing will no longer be required by the public.
She denied that Ireland was moving faster than advice from the World Health Organisation. There was still a global health emergency but Ireland, in comparison with other countries, had experienced a really good uptake in vaccination throughout the pandemic, she said.
“Our public health doctors have updated the advice and we have watched what's happening in other countries internationally. So this is a very measured approach. A lot of consideration has been put into this advice, and we're now three years into the pandemic and this is the best evidence that's available.”
Ms Whelan said that the advice remained that if a person had symptoms they should stay at home and avoid contact with other people as it was very important to break the chain of transmission.
However, frontline health care workers and people who are patient facing and who are working with the clinically vulnerable may have to undergo a risk assessment, she added.
Meanwhile, the number of people in hospital with Covid-19 has more than doubled since the start of the month as another wave of the virus takes hold.
There were 330 people in hospital with the disease on Monday, the Department of Health said, up from 137 at the start of this month.
Many of these patients are in hospital for other reasons but have tested positive for Covid-19 during their stay. The department said 40 per cent of accommodated Covid-19 patients last Tuesday were hospitalised due to the virus.
The number of patients with the disease in intensive care has also been edging upward, though the total remains small, standing at 17 on Monday, up from six in mid-March.
Though testing for Covid-19 is now limited to at-risk groups, there has been a recent increase in the number of tests carried out and the proportion returning a positive result. The seven-day positivity rate has almost doubled since the start of the month; from 7.4 per cent to 13.9 per cent on Monday.